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EMERGING MARKETS-Shares rise on vaccine hopes; Turkish lira skids on Moody's downgrade

* MSCI EM shares index up 0.9%, set for best day since Sept. 1

* AstraZeneca resumes trial for COVID-19 vaccine candidate

* Central bank meetings in U.S., S.Africa, Russia, Poland in focus

* Russian economy ministry sees rouble at 71.2 vs dollar in 2020

Sept 14 (Reuters) - Emerging market stocks firmed on Monday as renewed hopes for a coronavirus vaccine drove global equities higher, while a ratings downgrade by Moody’s sent Turkey’s lira closer to a record low against the dollar.

Markets now await several central bank meetings this week, as policymakers weigh measures to support economies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MSCI’s index of emerging markets shares rebounded from two weeks of losses to rise 0.9% - on track for its biggest one-day gain since the beginning of the month.

“We expect the latest bout of market fragility to pass and expect... (a) refocus on the positives,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, adding that he sees the recent pullback as an opportunity to enter markets at better levels.

Unprecedented stimulus measures have helped emerging market shares recover from year-lows hit in March, with most Asian indexes trading back at or above pre-pandemic levels. Stocks in Turkey, Russia, South Africa and Poland have made back between 30% to 55%.

Bolstering sentiment, AstraZeneca resumed the late-stage trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development, after getting the go-ahead from safety regulators. Illness in a study subject last week had suspended the trial and cast doubts on an early rollout.

An index of currencies of the developing world extended gains to a fourth straight day, with the dollar a tad weaker ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy announcement on Wednesday.

South Africa’s rand firmed about 0.8%, while Russia’s rouble rose 0.4%. Russia’s economy ministry said it now expects the rouble to average 71.2 against the dollar this year, compared with a previous forecast of 69.8.

Consensus forecast in a Reuters poll suggested Russia’s central bank may lower its benchmark rate to 4% in September, but some say it may opt to keep the rate on hold. For South Africa, the central bank is seen pausing following 300 basis points of cuts this year, while a modest 25 bps cut is also a possibility.

The lira fell 0.2%, less than half a percent away from all-time lows, after Moody’s downgraded Turkey’s long-term credit rating further into speculative grade on Friday.

The rating agency cited a possible balance of payments crisis and inability or unwillingness of the country’s institutions to effectively address such challenges.

Data on Monday showed Turkish industrial production rose higher than expected in July, continuing to pick up pace since pandemic-induced lockdowns were lifted in June. For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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